OK OK OK. I was going to stay out of the whole Lierre Keith getting a pie in the face thing because (1) Lierre Keith is probably (and hopefully, gawd) at 14:54 in terms of her 15 minutes of fame, and prolonging that seems like a disservice to critical thought and also the world as a whole; (2) I’ve admittedly only read of her book what’s available free on the internet and/or been quoted on the PPK; (3) I’m not entirely convinced the whole thing wasn’t simply a publicity stunt and, finally, (3) I have a reasonable suspicion she has Google Alerts set up for herself and in case she’s a reader of FM/thinking about purchasing Running with the Pack I wouldn’t want to discourage her. Don’t second-guess yourself, Lierre! The werewolf story I wrote has an ex-vegetarian as a character! You’d love it!
But! A member of the PPK has put up a .pdf of an elegant, devastating critique of some of the silliest claims in Lierre Keith’s junk-science manifesto, The Vegetarian Myth, and I couldn’t resist plugging it. Here’s a sample:
The Claim: “Understand: agriculture was the beginning of global warming. Ten thousand years of destroying the carbon sinks of perennial polycultures has added almost as much carbon to the atmosphere as industrialization, an indictment that you, vegetarians, need to answer. No one has told you this before, but that is what your food—those oh so eco-peaceful grains and beans—has done.” (P. 250)
The Reality: Much of Lierre’s book is borrowed from Richard Manning, a well-respected environmentalist and author. Manning understands that human dependence on grain monoculture is not a result of the small percentage of concerned people who decide to be vegetarian, but is rather a historical mistake of which we all share the burden of repairing. Despite Lierre’s insistence, vegans do not need to eat grains nor any sort of annual crop. Why did she target vegans when compared to average corn-fed Americans, vegans consume much less grain?
On the topic of climate change, Lierre fails to address that regardless of type of feed or forage, ruminant animals emit an abundance of methane. She, along with other grass-fed proponents, point out that growing pasture sequesters carbon in the subsoil and claim that farms like Polyface are carbon-neutral. However, she ignores the fact that soil only retains a limited quantity of carbon—once pasture is healthy, it is carbon stable. Any pasture-based livestock production contributes, pound-for-pound of meat, to climate change as much (if not more) than conventional livestock production—an indictment that you, Lierre, need to answer.
Yeah. I think the best part is how reasonable the authors are while discussing the outrageous misinformation presented as fact in Lierre’s Weston Price-sanctioned screed (a “fair and balanced” source to be sure, coo-coo-claiming as they do that the ideal diet contains such things like brains ground up into your casseroles and adding heavy cream to infant formula, no joke). So check out the link above of the first chapter of her book. Read it for yourself. There’s all sorts of wisdom-nuggets like:
Despite what you’ve been told, and despite the earnestness of the tellers, eating soybeans isn’t going to bring [chinooks, bison, grasshopper sparrows, grey wolves] back. Ninety-eight percent of the American prairie is gone, turned into a monocrop of annual grains.
Shit. Pretty much every single vegan site promotes that fundamental tenant of veganism: eating soy brings back extinct/endangered species! With such a devastating critique of “the vegetarian myth” I think I’ll go right out and eat a burger! See, before I discovered Lierre Keith, I thought that a ton of the grains grown in America fed livestock, not people. . . oh, wait, that’s actually true. But who cares? Moving on:
By turning from adult knowledge, the knowledge that death is embedded in every creature’s sustenance, from bacteria to grizzly bears, they [vegans] would never be able to feed the emotional and spiritual hunger that ached in me from accepting that knowledge. Maybe in the end this book is an attempt to soothe that ache myself.
Probably so, Lierre. In the meantime, I’ll remain here in childlike-reasoning-land, where I make a distinction between living creatures who cannot feel pain (bacteria) and living creatures who can (um, grizzly bears), and make informed decisions based on that infantile assumption. Actually, why am I even still talking about this? The folks who wrote the above .pdf already covered it:
The Claim: “I built my whole identity on the idea that my life did not require death…Did the lives of nematodes and fungi matter? Why not? Because they were too small for me to see?” (P. 18, discussed throughout the book)
In Reality: This is a straw man argument. These views are not held by most vegans. The goal of veganism is to eliminate direct, unnecessary suffering at the hands of humans–not to magically end all death. Why shouldn’t the cow with its undeniable ability to suffer take precedence over plants and organisms with limited or non-existent nervous systems such as the nematodes Keith frets about in this book?
Yeah, well, so. ‘Nuff said.